May 12, 2011
Katharine M. Nohr, Esq.
Nohr Sports Risk Management, LLC
On March 18, 2009, headlines all over the world announced that actress Natasha Richardson died from a head injury she sustained from a fall on a Quebec ski slope. An autopsy revealed that she sustained an epidural hematoma, causing bleeding between the skull and the brain’s covering. Such bleeding from a skull fracture may quickly produce a blood clot which puts pressure on the brain, forcing the brain downward. This impacts the brain stem that controls vital functions, including breathing. Logically, if all of that is happening it should be obvious and immediate medical attention would be sought. That is not the case. It is common for people that suffer head injuries to feel fine initially as it takes some time before symptoms emerge. Dr. Keith Siller of New York University Langone Medical Center, when interviewed in relation to this tragedy explained that, “This is a very treatable condition if you’re aware of what the problem is and the patient is quickly transferred to a hospital.”
The news coverage about Natasha Richardson, generally reported that she was a beginning skier who declined to wear a helmet for her ski lesson. She felt fine after her fall and turned an ambulance away at approximately 1:00pm. She later developed a headache and medics returned at approximately 3:00pm. As her condition deteriorated, she was driven from a local hospital to a Montreal hospital, not arriving until approximately 7:00pm. There were no medivac helicopters or airplanes available.